§ 10. Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry)
If he will make a statement on access to primary care for disabled people. 
§ The Minister of State, Department of Health (Jacqui Smith)
We are committed to delivering primary care services that offer prompt and convenient access to all, including disabled people. The NHS plan sets a primary care access target that by 2004 all patients will be able to see a primary care professional within 24 hours and a general practitioner within 48 hours.
§ Mr. Boswell
But does the hon. Lady accept that in some parts of the country, including mine, it is difficult to get on a GP's list? It is even harder to do so for disabled people and it is exceptionally hard for people with a history of mental illness or with learning difficulties. What specific action does she plan to take to ensure that those very vulnerable people obtain the services they need and to which they are entitled?
§ Jacqui Smith
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, especially about people with learning disabilities. If they have been in institutional care, or are still in such care, they are often not on GPs' lists. That is why the White Paper, "Valuing People: A New Strategy for Learning Disability for the 21st Century", 749 made it clear that people with learning disabilities needed the same access to GPs and to primary care as everybody else. That is why, by summer 2003, we expect the local partnership boards to have put in place health facilitators, to help people with learning disabilities to access health services. That is why we have already issued for primary health care teams good practice guidance on meeting the needs of people with learning disabilities. In various parts of the country, there are already good and innovative training schemes, whereby staff and GPs in primary care receive training about and are made aware of the particular needs of people with learning disabilities.
§ Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Is it not true that, more than anything, disabled people want to remain independent in their own home? Will my hon. Friend consider how the primary care sector of the health service can work with local authorities to bring down—almost to nothing—waiting times for people who want to adapt their homes or to put in bathroom conversions for level access showers to enable them to remain independent?
§ Jacqui Smith
My hon. Friend makes an important point about the role of adaptations and equipment in enabling disabled people to remain independent. Some of those issues are the responsibility of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. I have discussed the matter with ministerial colleagues there, and the Department of Health has made a contribution to the home improvement agencies in order to ensure that those types of adaptation are in place, especially for people who leave hospital. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced during the summer, we are also extending by 500,000 the number of pieces of community equipment available and that will benefit another 200,000 people over the next three years. Furthermore, I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that the Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc.) Bill, if passed by the House, will also ensure that such community equipment is provided free to everybody who needs it.